Missouri joined five neighboring states last month in a three day law enforcement blitz to target speeding drivers.
The effort which has been mirrored in states across the county is a program offered through the United States Department of Transportation.
Four states which are designated as Region 7 under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska – were joined by two states in Region 6 – Arkansas and Oklahoma – in the intensified campaign called “Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine”.
The crackdown, which took place from July 21st through 23rd, resulted in more than 7,700 speeding tickets being issued, 2,067 in Missouri alone.
Police agencies across the state were able to use federal grant money to help carry out the effort. Colonel Sandra Karsten of the State Highway Patrol said the officers in Missouri focused on Interstates 70, 44, 55 and 35, where the most speed-related crashes occur.
Mike Stapp with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Office of Highway Safety says the four highways were selected because they carry the most traffic through Missouri into adjacent states that were involved in the blitz.
“Through Missouri, of course, 44 and 70 are very highly traveled” said Stapp. “55 is also fairly busy. And 35 is not quite as busy as the other three I don’t believe.”
According to data from the NHTSA, a crash on a road with a speed limit of 65 mph or greater is more than twice as likely to result in a fatality than a crash on a road with a speed limit of 45 or 50 mph, and nearly five times as likely as a crash on a road with a speed limit of 40 mph or below.
About 15 percent of the country’s speeding-related fatalities occur on interstate highways each year.
The total number of traffic citations issued in Missouri during the Friday through Sunday crackdown in July was 3, 971. 316 seat belt citations were doled out along with 54 DWI arrests and citations. Kelly Jackson with MoDOT notes safety belt violations are more difficult to tag in Missouri because they carry secondary enforcement status.
“A vehicle has to first be observed breaking a primary law, such as failure to yield, tail light out, something like that” said Jackson. “If they’re then pulled over and observed to not be wearing a safety belt, they can be ticketed.”
Law enforcement officials reported 180 crashes in Missouri during the blitz, with 33 of them speed related. There were also seven fatalities on Missouri highways during the three-day speeding crackdown, with one occurring on the routes included in the enforcement effort.
MoDOT’s Stapp says the campaign had a noticeable impact on driving habits. “I can tell you from my own experience that I’ve seen Facebook posts and emails, people talking about traveling during that weekend, and how many officers were out there. Traffic was slowing down. It definitely gets their attention.”
The “Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine” campaign is in its second year of existence through the U.S. Department of Transportation. The same six states participated in the program together in the fall of 2016.
Stapp says crackdowns like the effort in July need to be repeated periodically in order to have a lasting influence. “(It) makes a difference for a time period, and then people return to basically their old habits. Speeds start going back up. And that probably means it’s time to do it again to try to bring those back down.”
Other safe driving campaigns could be coming to Missouri. The U.S. Department of Transportation is starting to publicize a Labor Day “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” effort.
MoDOT’s Jackson says the state has its own set of campaigns lined up throughout the year. “We do distracted driving. We’re doing pedestrian this year, impaired driving, safety belt usage, child passenger safety. We have a lot going on year round.”